Thursday, July 31, 2008


I grew my garden in lockstep with my family. We moved in to a vast expanse of grass in 1986 (actually a vast expanse of snow, since it was December). For a while the garden grew with the family—add a child, add a flower bed. Five pregnancies later I had a full garden (although only two children—the goddess was kinder to the yard than to the pregnancies).

As the children grew in complexity so did the garden, adding vegetables, trees, more flowers, patios and a pond. The children are grown and gone and the garden is grown yet comes back every year, a lovely metaphor on the nature of parenting adults.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Second guesses

How do you know which things were right and which things were wrong. Our kids seem great-- engaged and engaging, and moving on with their lives. But what if we'd done X instead of Y? Should I have held my temper, or demonstrated it with less sound (if not less fury)? Should Bill have loosed his?

What is the cause and effect, and how do you trace it. What is the provenance of Nga's heedlessness, or Seng Lim's lack of drive. Was Bill underambitious or just realistic? Did I sacrifice for my family or use them as a convenient excuse for my failure? Were we born like this, or are we victims of our parents' failings?

Sunday, July 20, 2008


What is the nature of a partnership? I see the partnership of marriage as a braid-- one piece holds the other in place. Remove one and the whole thing unravels. So each piece needs the other to function; the parts cannot create a whole without this mutual knowledge and help.

If one partner is disabled or unavailable in some way, the other ought to be able to step in without request or instruction. Your cannot require of one partner the burden of knowledge while not accepting your equal responsibility to maintain that knowledge. Correspondingly, each partner must allow the other to create functionality in their own way. This means not only letting your partner achieve an outcome on their own, but also that you cannot insist that someone tell you how to do something.

The need for your partner to "be there for you" is primal, and I think for parents born of the knowledge that you will die and leave your children. Even as the parent of an adult I fear the idea of my children's lives without me. It is very hard to live without your parents, although it is everyone's fate. If my partner is not there for me, will he be there for my children? If my children and my partner don't understand how I do things, how will they learn to do things for themselves?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Guessing games

How do you know what your children will learn?

My mother wanted us to learn self-reliance. She told me once how proud she was at the lack of connection between us-my father, my brother, her and me. She felt she had achieved her purpose in making us "just four people who happen to share a house."

But I did not learn self-reliance from this. I learned to hold with all my might to my family, whether they wanted to be held or not. I learned that I wanted to teach my children that loyalty to the family comes first, and that family is the most important thing in their lives.

But I don't think my children learned this. I think they learned that family is a stranglehold to be resisted. My son fears commitment will tie him to a life he doesn't want. He doesn't seem to feel, as I do, that commitment and lifestyle do not proceed in lockstep, but that one can inform and support the other. My daughter uses commitment as a bludgeon, a weapon, to get her way. "Thwart me and I will withhold myself."

Of course, these outcomes are my worst nightmare-- one child running as fast as he can from family commitment, and another threatening the same thing in order to make my own commitment stronger. Which is, of course, a pattern in my life, of loved ones and friends using my loyalty against me, and punishing me with their absence, physical or emotional, when I demand a return in love and loyalty.

Will my children punish me with distance, or reward with me with proximity? What price will I have to pay?

Monday, July 7, 2008


Holly says I should meditate, but frankly, I'm too bored.

Being unable to move about freely; having easy daily tasks restricted day after day leads to a degree of boredom that is very nearly religious in its intensity. I have reached such a state of boredom that is not really relieved by doing something, because I know that once I finish whatever it is I will be plunged directly back into my original condition of Nothing. To. Do.

I never realized the extent to which hopping up to wash the dishes or pull weeds or dust or all the other small tasks of the day kept me going. I find that my creative abilities have diminished to the point where I cannot even initiate projects that I know I should, because I know that the small things I need to do (run up to Noyes, talk to Bridget, check a file, take a meeting) are inaccessible or undoable. The degree to which my job does not challenge me becomes apparent, because I find that I cannot initiate projects because of the degree of oversight and supervision that Bridget requires, not to mention that she hates doing anything different. It is pointless to spend time on new projects, since they won't go anywhere. Can't arrange new Retail Partners, because I can't get to a meeting. Can't write 2009 proposal template, because I don't know the season. Can't get to the mall or the library for books. By the time they get here from Amazon I'll be out of the cast, so it's pointless to spend the money. Daytime tv is a nightmare and watching tv does not solve my need to move around. Can't really "take time off" because the entire problem is that there is nothing to do.

I will be a screaming wreck after another week of this.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Life gets in the way

Probably like all diarists, I started out with the best intentions-- at least an entry per week, about living with (and without) grown-up offspring. No whining allowed (I do enough of that in real life).

Well, here we are 2 1/2 months since the last entry. So the conclusion is, blogging is hard. Like any endeavor you have to commit to it. Interesting, what happened was, that life got in the way, inasmuch as "life" can be synonymous with "children." Nga Jee came home, Julian graduated from college, Nga Jee left, Julian left.

And this defines the rhythm of parenthood. When the kids are here it really is all about them. They syphon off emotional energy and actual time, sometimes without meaning to and sometimes through the sheer obliviousness of the pampered middle class child, for whom life has always centered on their needs. It is a difficult conceit to resist.

Now they are gone, and low and behold, I sit down and write.